Dispatches from the living amongst journalism's walking dead

Journalists, meet Google+ (for reals this time)

So we’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the launch of Google+ (in June). While many journalists and news brands have embraced the platform, many more either waited to hear more from the canaries in the coal mine or signed up only to abandon it for more engaging pastures.

A year on, Google+ reportedly has more than 100 million signed-up users, though the number of those actually using G+ on a regular basis is largely up for debate (and Google ain’t tellin’). Many who have been using G+ for news have noted that engagement-wise, it’s a virtual ghost town and posts dont get much in the way of comments, +1s and shares compared to the likes of Facebook.

So in early January, Google launched “Search Plus Your World”, which elevates Google social shares in all users’ Google search results. Aside from a whole host of privacy and anti-trust concerns it raised, this (in my view) put a gun to the heads of journalists and news brands, forcing them onto Google+ for the sake of raising their stories and profiles in search results.

In short, Google may not have a lot of engagement going on (yet), but it does help your readers find your stories in Google searches, so that’s a good enough reason to invest some time on this platform as an individual and as a brand.

I’d like to pass on some best practices and tips for using G+ for reporters and brands, so please share your tips and success stories in the comments.

First, let me introduce (or re-introduce) some of the basics.

Google Plus Lingo

The Basics of Using Google+

Setting Up a Google+ Profile For Journalists

Setting Up a Google+ Page For News Brands

Google Plus Lingo

This is a glossary of sorts, for more detail or to get familiarized with the layout, I’d suggest reading this.

Home tab: This is where you see incoming updates and post your own updates. It’s a button with a house on it at the top of your G+ screen.

Your Life Stream: All of the updates, photos and whathaveyou from your connections and followed accounts.

Circles: These are groups of people who you are following on Google+. They work similarly to Facebook lists, as you can direct your posts to particular groups and use the circles to narrow down the updates in your feed to a particular group of people.

You organize your Circles by clicking the Circles button at the top of the page. Click on Circle names on the left side of your home screen to view posts only by those accounts.

Share post: You see this on every update, if you click it, it will share that post to your stream (with an added comment if you want to include one).

 +1s: A way to “upvote”, “like” or “recommend” a post on G+ or a link on an external site (using a +1 button). These show up in the Google search results of your friends and contacts if they are relevant, like so:

On your G+ profile screen, you can review all of your +1s.

Saved Searches: Anytime you search G+, you have the option of saving that search for future use. Saved searches can be found on the left side of your home screen, under your Circles. (See it)

What’s Hot: A curated stream of the best content on Google+ right now. You see this in red on the left side of your home screen. (See it)

The slider: This allows you to adjust how much of any circle or stream appears in your home feed. You’ll see it at the top of Circle streams or the What’s Hot page. Drag it to adjust your settings accordingly. (See it)

Profiles vs Pages: Profiles (the standard G+ account) are for individuals, Pages are for brands. You need to have a profile in order to set up a brand page. To switch between the two, click the drop-down arrow next to your profile photo at the top of your G+ home screen.

Hangouts: A feature unique to Google+ among the major social networks, Hangouts allow you to do a video chat with up to 10 participants. This is great for meetings, or, if you couple it with a live stream, a panel-type chat for readers. Within Hangouts, you can share documents, watch videos and have a text-based chat in addition to the video. (See it)

The Basics

Adding people to Circles: Click the Circles button at the top of your screen. From here, you can search for people by name, check your email contacts to find G+ accounts and the like. To add people to a Circle, drag and drop them from the box at the top to the Circle below. You can add a single user to more than one Circle, and you can add more than one user at a time by clicking multiple accounts and dragging them.

Image via PopHerald.com


How to post updates: G+ works very similarly to Facebook. Click the chain link icon to post a link. When you put in a link to share, it will automatically post a headline, thumbnail image (if there is one) and description of that link. You also have the option of posting videos (which can play right in the stream of followers) and photos (as individual photos or albums).

Tagging: Like Facebook, you can tag people and pages (for organizations or public figures) in your posts by putting in an @ sign before their name.

Start a Hangout: On your home screen, there’s a button on the top right to Start a Hangout. Click it and you’ll get to a screen where you can select the people or Circle you want to hang out with. You can have up to 10 people on a Hangout.

Google Plus Hangout Example

We do hangouts for DFM meetings



How News Brands Should Set Up Google+ Pages


Google+ Best Practices for News Brands

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the subtle shout-out, Mandy! This is a good primer for basics. I’m definitely hoping that Google starts to open up about usage, though. And that, as time goes on, we get a better idea of just how much G+ affects search for those who aren’t logged in, aren’t in extended circles, etc. What I’ve heard so far indicates… a lot.

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